Dental fillings: Should metal fillings be replaced with composite?

That depends on the reason for your dentist's recommendation.

If your metal dental fillings are defective or show decay, it's important to replace them. Untreated decay may eventually lead to an infection (abscess). In some cases, replacing metal dental fillings may benefit the long-term health of the tooth.

Generally, replacing metal dental fillings for aesthetic reasons should only be done after careful consideration and if your dentist feels it will not compromise the long-term health of the tooth. Likewise, there's no need to replace metal dental fillings because of concerns about mercury in the fillings.

Most metal dental fillings are dental amalgam — a stable alloy made with mercury, silver, tin, copper and possibly other metals. Although concerns have been raised over the years about the safety of mercury in dental amalgam, researchers have proved the concerns to be unfounded. The American Dental Association supports the use of dental amalgam as a safe, reliable and effective treatment for dental decay.

If you're unsure whether you need to replace your metal dental fillings, ask your dentist to explain the options and help you understand what's best in your case.

© 1998-2017 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved.


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What to Expect During a FILLING

  1. Local anesthesia – at the beginning of your filling procedure, you may be given local anesthesia to numb the area around the tooth.

  2. Tooth decay removal – then the dentist will cut through the enamel using a drill to remove any decay. After the dentist removes the decay, the dentist will shape the space to ready it for the filling.

  3. Etching – for a bonded filling your dentist will etch the tooth with an acid gel before placing the filling.

  4. Resin application – for certain types of fillings the dentist will layer on the resin and harden it using a bright light. This makes it strong.

  5. Polishing – after the filling has been placed, your dentist will polish the tooth.

Fight cavities now to help prevent fillings in the future!

Cavities are no fun, and nobody likes getting a filling. Use cavity prevention toothpaste to help prevent extra trips to the dentist.